The United States has rejected an appeal from Britain, France and Germany to grant broad exemptions to European firms doing business in Iran, saying it would press ahead with sanctions intended to exert “unprecedented” economic pressure on the Tehran regime, U.S. and Western officials told NBC News.
New details from a trove of Iranian nuclear documents stolen by Israeli spies early this year show that Tehran obtained explicit weapons-design information from a foreign source and was on the cusp of mastering key bombmaking technologies when the research was ordered halted 15 years ago. Iran’s ambitious, highly secretive effort to build nuclear weapons included extensive research in making uranium metal as well as advanced testing of equipment used to generate neutrons to start a nuclear chain reaction, the documents show.
New U.S. sanctions are likely to prevent the use of a Lloyd’s of London IT platform for any Iran insurance, adding to difficulties for European insurers providing cover for the country.
UANI IN THE NEWS
Speculation persists of a possible deal with Russia on Syria. Yet caution is required, for no decision is more likely to affect the course of events in the Middle East in the coming years than the question of how long to retain U.S. forces in Syria… Make no mistake, these small U.S. forces have an outsize significance for both our friends and enemies. At modest cost and risk, they offer substantial benefit to U.S. national security. Carefully integrated into a larger strategy, a small, nimble U.S. force presence offers a powerful obstacle to two threats—a regenerated Islamic State, and Iran's effort to use Syria as a power projection platform in the heart of the Arab Middle East and against Israel.
Last month, I returned from a trip to Israel. In a briefing we received from a former intelligence officer on Israel’s northern border, I heard two warnings that Israeli experts have repeated on multiple occasions. First, they talk about the next war not in terms of “if” but “when.” Secondly, they say that the next war won’t only be with Hezbollah in Lebanon, but also with Iranian forces and Shiite militias on the Golan Heights.
NUCLEAR DEAL & NUCLEAR PROGRAM
Israeli agents covertly extracted documents detailing Iran’s nuclear program in a dramatic 6½-hour operation in Tehran in January, removing a trove of materials that included partial designs for a nuclear warhead, senior Israeli intelligence officials said.
The Mossad agents moving in on a warehouse in a drab commercial district of Tehran knew exactly how much time they had to disable the alarms, break through two doors, cut through dozens of giant safes and get out of the city with a half-ton of secret materials: six hours and 29 minutes.
A top adviser to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has rejected U.S. President Donald Trump's suggestion that Iran seek a deal with the United States to ease the economic "pain" of looming sanctions.
SANCTIONS, BUSINESS RISKS, & OTHER ECONOMIC NEWS
French reinsurer Scor SE said on Friday it will not sign new contracts in Iran or renew existing deals because of U.S. sanctions against the country.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov says he cannot confirm the recent comments made by the top aide of the Islamic Republic’s Supreme Leader that Russia will invest money in Iran.
Iran said Russia is ready to invest as much as $50 billion in its oil industry even as Western majors are pulling out of deals with the republic amid the threat of U.S. sanctions.
The U.S. Department of Commerce on July 13 lifted a ban on U.S. companies selling equipment to Chinese telecom giant ZTE, allowing the company to resume business. The department imposed the ban in April over allegations that ZTE violated U.S. sanctions against Iran and North Korea, but the company's warnings that the penalty would put it out of business prompted the White House to negotiate a reprieve for the firm.
Iran demanded its fellow OPEC members stick to crude production ceilings and defied the threats of Donald Trump as the U.S. president targets its crucial oil exports.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Saturday the United States was more isolated than ever over sanctions against Iran, even among its allies.
A senior Iranian oil official urged U.S. President Donald Trump not to use the nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve to push prices lower, and instead drop sanctions on Iran’s crude exports. “My advice to you, Mr. President, is to avoid touching the SPR - to cool down and give up sanctioning Iranian oil," Hossein Kazempour Ardebili, Iran’s representative to OPEC, said by email.
PROTESTS & HUMAN RIGHTS
Maryam Faraji, a 33-year old civil rights activist and dissident, who mysteriously disappeared on Thursday, July 5, has been found dead.
Najaf airport has been sacked. The border with Kuwait has been occupied by protesters and roads to major oil fields blocked in southern Iraq. The base of a Kata’ib Hezbollah pro-Iranian militia was set on fire. In response Baghdad has cut off access to Internet and social media apps, and sent elite counter-terrorism units, as well as the army, to quell the spreading protests.
MILITARY/INTELLIGENCE MATTERS & PROXY WARS
Elements of Iran’s clandestine services are making increasingly bold and potentially dangerous moves across Europe and Africa, using diplomatic missions abroad as tools to project power in ways not seen since the 1990s, say security officials and counterterrorism experts. The alleged surge in activity includes assassination plots, accusations of an attempted bombing, and the reported arming of rebel groups far from Iran’s borders.
The German intelligence agency of the state of Hesse published a new document on countering the spread of weapons of mass destruction, singling out the Islamic Republic of Iran as one of two states seeking to obtain the ultimate form of powerful weapons.
RUSSIA, SYRIA, ISRAEL, HEZBOLLAH, LEBANON & IRAN
When President Donald Trump meets Russia’s Vladimir Putin on Monday, the Syrian conflict will be one of the most immediately pressing issues on a wide-ranging and colorful agenda. As fighting wanes after seven years of war, the U.S. has made curtailing Iran’s influence in post-war Syria a strategic objective — one strongly backed by Israel.
Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke on the phone with President Trump on Saturday. Israel is closely following the Trump-Putin summit, which takes place Monday in Helsinki, Finland. One of the main issues in the summit will be a possible deal on the future of Syria. Israel wants Iranian forces, Hezbollah and pro-Iranian Shia militias out of Syria in any future deal.
Israel on Sunday night attacked a military base near Aleppo in northern Syria, the country’s official news agency SANA reported, citing a military source.
Israel is ramping up attacks against Iranian supply lines in Syria to block the flow of weapons to Hezbollah and other Tehran-backed militias, as it seeks to drive its foe away from its borders.
US President Donald Trump’s top security adviser said Sunday that US troops would remain in Syria as long as Iran continues to “menace” the region, seemingly reversing a promise by the White House to pull out sooner.
Argentina's Foreign Ministry says it has asked Russia to arrest and extradite former Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Velayati, citing his alleged role in a 1994 bombing in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people.
Ali Akbar Velayati, a senior adviser to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said on Friday that Tehran coordinates positions on its military presence in Syria with Moscow and Damascus.
Iran has no intention of leaving Syria regardless of U.S. and Israeli pressure, a senior envoy to Iran's leader said Friday, reaffirming a tough stance on the issue expected to top the agenda of the upcoming U.S.-Russian summit.
Shi’ite forces, managed by Iran, are being integrated into the campaign currently waged by the Syrian army in the south of the country, according to a report by the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center released on Thursday.
‘Death to Palestine!” Iranians chanted at a large antiregime protest recently. They also called for death to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani. But why would Iranians care about “Palestine” with such passion as to wish it dead? Because hatred of Israel is a foundational idea of the Islamic Republic. In calling for “death to Palestine,” Iranians are subverting a regime whose raison d’être is antagonism.
Hamas leaders regret speaking out about their renewed relations with Iran, some sources report, and certain foreign advisers to Hamas have recommended that the Islamist movement stop its boasting.
According to reports in both Syrian and English media, Israel last month made what was essentially a devil’s bargain with Russia after weeks of intensive diplomacy: Israel will give Russia and its Assad regime client the diplomatic “green light” to attack rebel forces abutting Israel and Jordan, and in return, Russia will ensure that Iranian proxy forces who back Assad do not join the offensive. The demand regarding Iranian proxies is key, as many such proxies have clear intentions to attack Israel. But Russia has not held up its end of the bargain.
OTHER IRANIAN INTERNAL DEVELOPMENTS
Iran's supreme leader has called on state bodies to support the government of President Hassan Rohani in fighting looming U.S. economic sanctions, saying America's "conspiracy" could be defeated, Iranian media have reported.
While Persian-speaking satellite channels in Iran have been periodically subject to jamming since 2003, the information and communications technology minister says that equipment for monitoring “jamming signals” has been installed in the city of Shiraz and several other cities across the country. Earlier, the Health Ministry, along with Shiraz's representatives to the Iranian parliament, had warned against the health risks of exposure to jamming signals.
An Iranian pilot who recently made revelations about gross safety violations by Iranian airlines was arrested on Sunday, July 15 in Tehran for a few hours.
IRANIAN REGIONAL AGGRESSION
Iran's countermeasures for fighting US economic sanctions, which cripple Iranian oil exports, include blocking the strategic Hormuz Strait, said Deputy Speaker of Parliament Ali Motahari.
GULF STATES, YEMEN, & IRAN
Yemen's rebel chief on Friday praised Shiite power Iran and its ally Hezbollah, singling out the Lebanese group's leader Hassan Nasrallah for his "solidarity."
Iran’s top authority Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has criticised Saudi Arabia over its management of the haj pilgrimage and called for a fresh investigation into a 2015 crush that killed hundreds, Iranian state TV reported on Monday.